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Increasing evidence indicates low bioaccumulation of carbon nanotubes



Rhema Bjorkland, David Tobias, Elijah Petersen


As the production of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) expands, so does the potential for release into the environment. The possibility of bioaccumulation and toxicological effects has prompted research on their fate and potential ecological effects. For many organic chemicals, bioaccumulation properties are associated with lipid-water partitioning properties. However, applying these approaches to nanomaterials such as CNTs has proven to be problematic. In the absence of data on the bioaccumulation properties ofCNTs, the US EPA has used a conservative position based on uncertainty to designate CNTs to have the potential to be highly bioaccumulative. We summarize the literature on CNT bioaccumulation by invertebrates and non-mammalian vertebrates to improve the assessment of bioaccumulation potential. Because the behavior and fate of CNTs may be affected by type (single versus multiwall), functionalization, and dosing technique, the bioaccumulation studies were reviewed with respect to these factors. Translocation and retention patterns across species were also investigated. All of the studies showed little to no translocation of the material from the gut tract to other tissues. These findings combined with the lack of biomagnification in the trophic transfer studies conducted to date suggest that the overall risk of trophic transfer can also be considered as low. Based on the available data, in particular the low levels of translocation of CNTs, CNTs appear to form a class that should be designated low or no concern for bioaccumulation.
Royal Society of Chemistry Journal Environmental Science: Nano


Bjorkland, R. , Tobias, D. and Petersen, E. (2017), Increasing evidence indicates low bioaccumulation of carbon nanotubes, Royal Society of Chemistry Journal Environmental Science: Nano, [online], (Accessed July 18, 2024)


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Created January 26, 2017, Updated October 12, 2021